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Kapila Dhingra A Beacon Of Hope

Kapila Dhingra A Beacon Of Hope



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY RAVNEET SEHMI

PHOTO BY DHRUV SHAH

You see her up and about Nairobi, lending her support in various capacities to better the lives of people around her. If you haven’t identified her yet, she is Kapila Dhingra. One of many valuable personalities from India, Dhingra has been instrumental in the development and support for the Indian diaspora. Her efforts were even recognised in 2000, when she received the ‘Hindi Ratan Award’ in acknowledgment of her work among the Indian diaspora, something she continues even today. Along with her husband, Ramesh, they own over 20 private primary and secondary schools. This edition, we speak to the powerhouse that is Dhingra, Chairlady of
Indian Women’s Association as well as also one of the initiators of the Indian Citizens’ Welfare Association of Kenya (ICWAK).

 

You are an ever-present fixture in many community events, but behind the committed
individual, who is Kapila Dhingra?

I was born in India and it is there that I received my primary and secondary education. I then pursued an academic degree from Delhi University and a Degree in Art from the College of Art in New Delhi.It was here that I met my husband, Ramesh Dhingra, who is a brilliant artist and talented photographer. With the blessings of our parents, we got married.

I have always been a go-getter ever since my school and college days. I was very active in the social circle and also performed in many dramas under my mentors, the late Om Shiv Puri, Sudha Shiv Puri and the late Dinesh Thakur (from the film, Rajnigandha). I also modelled in different advertisements. After getting married, my husband and I came to Kenya in 1975 as teachers… and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

You work closely with your husband in various business endeavors. Can you expound on that?

Apart from being my best friend, Ramesh is also my inspiration, mentor and guide. He has been my pillar of strength and I credit him for helping me achieve so much in life. Back to the question and professionally, I am a Director in all of my husband’s schools and business ventures. Previously, we were teachers and have gone through a large part of our lives impacting and shaping students and children in general. Even after practicing in the educational sector for all these years, I still consider myself a student; I learn so much every day. Teaching and learning is very self-satisfying.

 

That is so nice to hear. Among your various contributions to the Indian diaspora, you are a Founder member of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). How active is the organisation in East Africa and what does it set out to achieve?

Yes, along with my husband, we founded GOPIO – Kenyan Chapter, which was initiated by Dr M Rai. Its purpose was to assist the Indian diaspora, especially those who had just arrived from India and had difficulty in adjusting and resettling. It has however been dormant for some years, but plans are underway to revive this association.

 

We hope for the best. Dhingra, you are the Chairperson for the Indian Women’s Association (IWA). How have you used your post to positively impact society?

IWA is very close to my heart and has been recognised and felicitated by the Indian government, through the Indian High Commission in Nairobi – we have even twice received grant-in-aid during my tenure. Since its inception many years ago, IWA has assisted many charities. Furthermore, our monthly meets are very informative and we invite personalities and professionals from various fields of expertise to speak. All these activities add value to the lives of many.

 

In the various leadership roles you have held and through different associations, what are the key areas that you have especially focused on and why?

As a lady, I take particular interest on mothers and the girl child. I have had a very close contact with destitute single mothers and neglected female students during my interactions as a teacher. Their struggle is enormous and it is my dream to establish a Trust to assist such individuals – to uplift, educate and enable them to stand on their own feet. Through collective efforts, we have supported many young Maasai girls with full bursaries to pursue their education at our schools.

 

With a rich background in social causes and charitable activities, what is your take on the continuous debate between constantly supporting the less privileged community versus empowering them to become independent?

I fully support the school of thought that ascribes to the belief of empowering them to become independent; providing continuous financial support may not be the solution. With this goal in mind, we are proud to see students we support absorbed in our schools as trainees and teachers. There are many charitable organisations doing a great job by assisting the less privileged, but more can be done.

 

A woman in business yourself, what advise do you have to fellow women who aspire to achieve leadership roles?

The message is to be honest in your dealings and assist one-another as you collectively grow.

Whenever I reflect back, my own journey even inspires me. We should continue to work hard and inspire others as we assist the less-privileged.

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